Monday, January 20, 2020

Triads: Yellow Plays Well With Others

Some of the many triad swatches I made.

From my previous primary triadic studies, I noted that the aggressive players are red and blue, while yellow is an easy-going partner. I started working on the hypothesis that as long as the red/blue combo was playing happily together as purple, almost any yellow could join in without ruining the harmony.

Using Derwent Inktense pencils (at right and below), I first tried several combos of red and blue to mix a purple I liked. I settled on Peacock Blue (820) and Poppy Red (400). Then I tried several different yellows with that combo, one at a time, and couldn’t seem to mix a bad one. I chose Cadmium Yellow (220) to make the tomato sketch.
1/9/20 Derwent Inktense in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
(Peacock Blue 820, Poppy Red 400, Cadmium Yellow 220)
1/11/20 vintage Prismacolor Watercolor pencils in
S&B Beta (Crimson 2924, Violet Blue 2933, Canary
Yellow 2916)
Working with a small set of vintage Prismacolor watercolor pencils, I had fewer hue options, but I used the same principle (at left): First I combined Crimson Red (2924) and Violet Blue (2933) to make sure the resulting purple was strong, and then I threw Canary Yellow (2916) into the mix. Happy with that, I sketched the tomato and banana.

From a previous triad I had tried, I saw that Carmine (and other reds similar to it) often mixed well with others. Using the Caran d’Ache Supracolor line, I found that Ruby Red (280), which is Carmine-like, and Permanent Blue (670) made a lovely violet (below). All yellows I tried with it looked great, and I chose Gold Cadmium Yellow (530) for the apple sketch. I love this triad – clean and fresh with a strong purple. It makes me wish that the Cd’A Museum Aquarelle line included Ruby Red.

Experiments shown today were all done with watercolor pencils. I’m also working on triads using traditional pencils with a more systematic method: The red and blue remain the same in all trials, and only the yellow varies. Stay tuned!

Isn’t this thrilling?! (Yes, I’m easily amused, especially in the dead of winter.)

1/14/20 Supracolor pencils in S&B Beta (Ruby 280, Permanent Blue 670, Gold
Cadmium Yellow 530)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cold Seat

1/15/20 Roosevelt neighborhood

Last week, after a hot tip from a friend, I found two couches on Roosevelt waiting to be sketched. After finishing one, I was too cold to get the second. Exactly a week later, I took a walk/sketch down Roosevelt again, and the couch I hadn’t sketched yet was still there – now covered with snow. With the windchill factor, it was 28 degrees, but I couldn’t resist. About 20 minutes later, my sketch was done, and none too soon – a truck came by and hauled the couch away.

Thawing my hands back at home, I was happy that I had gone out for my walk when I had. Shortly afterwards, snow started falling again – sideways. I hope you’re staying warm wherever you are!  
They didn't even bother to remove the snow
before hauling it away.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we like our
snow this way: Build one snowman, and
all the snow is used up.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Giving Epsilon a Shot

Out: Zeta; in: Epsilon (with some political commentary)

I just filled the Stillman & Birn Zeta that I started in October and had used intermittently with a S&B Beta. After the Beta was full, I continued in the Zeta, thinking I’d want to start the next Beta eventually, but by then the holiday colors were over, and it was graphite season again. I haven’t been using enough color to miss Beta’s surface, especially with my current minimal kit challenge, so Zeta worked out beautifully. In fact, it’s the ideal surface for the ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil I’ve been using a lot lately. On these dreary, colorless days, it’s my favorite ultra-minimal tool.

That brings me to Epsilon, which I use frequently at my desk but haven’t used as an everyday-carry. I often avoid sketching on the page that faces a graphite sketch because of the smudging that occurs. Epsilon has the same surface as Zeta, but the paper is thinner, so a book contains twice as many pages. As long as I’m using mostly dry media, the lighter pages are fine, and I can skip a facing page without regretting as much of the waste of the higher-price-per-page Zeta. I’m going to give Epsilon a try for the rest of my minimal challenge.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Green Lake Arch

1/14/20 Green Lake Park

The day after Monday’s dusting, we got a little more snow overnight, but not enough to write home about. The more significant difference for me was the drop in temperature. Although my weather app said it was 28 degrees, I was hoping that my walk down to Green Lake would have warmed me enough that I could stand to sketch outdoors as I had the day before. But my hands were freezing even with the mitten tops pulled over my fingerless gloves. I retreated to Starbucks.

Thawing my hands around a tall flat white, I picked a window seat facing a row of knotty old trees. It’s one of my favorite views of Green Lake Park, but it had been several years since I last sketched it. The darker areas are the grass already showing through the scant snow.

I’ll point out a bit of history: That classical fa├žade in the distant background at right is a piece of architecture taken from the Martha Washington School of Girls for “neglected and unfortunate young girls.” Built in 1921 near Lake Washington, the school closed in 1957, and the city bought the property in 1972. (Local trivia: Apparently ghosts have been sighted there.) The Green Lake Arch, as it is now called, was taken out of storage in 2009 and placed at the park. I always thought I hadn’t noticed the arch until recent years because so many things escaped my attention before I started sketching. But now that I’ve read this bit of local history, I realize it was erected only a couple of years before I started.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Dusting

1/13/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood

On Monday we woke to the snow that had been promised for more than a week. It wasn’t quite the storm we had been led to expect, however: At least in our neck of the woods, we got barely a couple of inches. When I went out for a walk/sketch in the lightly falling snow, the streets were dry, but the trees had the magical look that a dusting of snow always brings.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bewick’s Wren

1/9/20 Bewick's wren

Last winter a Bewick’s wren visited our feeder only occasionally, and meals were extremely brief. Every time I spotted one, it would be gone by the time I picked up a pencil. The most I got were a couple of incomplete gestures last spring. Along with a nuthatch, which also visits rarely and briefly, a wren has been my sketching goal at the feeder this winter.

Hoping to attract more nuthatches, which like to hang upside-down to dine, we got a different feeder this year designed to accommodate birds that eat that way. It holds suet bricks instead of loose seeds. I guess wrens like suet, because one has been visiting more often, and last week I finally caught it! It’s still not much more than a gesture, but it’s the most complete sketch I’ve made so far.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review: Uni Posca Colored Pencils

Uni Posca colored pencils

The Uni Posca name might be best known among sketchers for its line of opaque paint markers. I reviewed them a couple of years ago at the Well-Appointed Desk, and they are especially fun to use on black or other dark colored papers. (I did a sketch of koi at the Japanese Garden with Posca paint markers a while back.) I discovered recently that Uni Posca is now in the colored pencil game, too: A set and open-stock pencils are available at Blick for about $2 each. Although I’d be reluctant to buy a set of 36 as a trial (the only set size available at Blick), their availability as open stock made my decision easy. I bought one each of red (15), lemon yellow (28) and blue (33). (My recent experiments with triads have convinced me that three primaries are an ideal number for testing application and blending properties.)
The 3 colors I tried

First, let’s look at the pencil’s exterior: Posca pencils, made by Mitsubishi (I don’t have the packaging to know whether they are made in Japan), have matte black, round barrels that feel very smooth and comfortable to hold. (I have been known to repeatedly run my fingers along that lovely, pleasant finish.) Uni Posca’s primary colored logo, which also appears on its markers and other products, gives the design a whimsical look.

Smooth matte finish and rounded end caps
Color numbers on the ends

Rounded end caps indicating the pencils’ colors have the same matte finish. Color numbers are on the ends – a nice touch for people like me who store pencils in cups instead of in boxes. Unfortunately, color names are not on the barrels.

Look at that thick core – the first sign that these pencils might be pleasant to use. According to Blick, the oil-based cores are “fade-resistant, highly opaque, and blendable.” A close look at the collar gives an interesting clue: Instead of dipping the end cap color onto the painted pencil, the end cap color is painted first, and the black coat is added afterwards.

Thick core and a telltale collar.

1/8/20 Uni Posca pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
Using a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, I started sketching an apple with the Uni Posca pencils, and I was immediately struck by how creamy and smooth the super-soft cores are. Among the softest I’ve used, they apply like a dream and blend beautifully without feeling waxy. In fact, the feeling was familiar. . .

1/8/20 Uni Pericia pencils in S&B Epsilon
I reviewed Uni Pericia colored pencils for the Well-Appointed Desk a while back, but it had been a while since I last used them. After I finished the Posca sketch, I pulled out my Pericia set to refresh my memory.  Using three colors in the Pericia palette that are as close as I could find to the Posca triad, I sketched the apple again. Pericia pencils are also oil-based. There it was – that same super-soft, creamy application. 

I put the cores side by side: The same thickness, and the wood looks the same, too. In fact, the round barrel, matte finish and rounded end caps are also very similar.

From top: Pericia and Posca

Since opacity seems to be a selling point of the Poscas, I swatched both side by side on black paper.

Opacity test in Stillman & Birn black Nova sketchbook

 I’d be willing to bet money that Posca and Pericia cores are the same!

How are they different, then? Mainly the price. Although Blick doesn’t carry Pericia pencils, so I can’t compare directly, JetPens’ price is about $3 each. Pericia pencils come in a faux leather storage case that looks like it should contain jewelry. Blick’s images of Posca packaging show plastic trays. When I reviewed Pericias, I wondered how much of that price was for the fancy case . . . and now I think I know how much.

I don’t know if Pericia pencils are available open stock (I’ve never found them sold that way online), but Posca pencils are, so that also makes them a better choice. I say go for the Poscas. At least right now, Blick seems to be the only place carrying Posca pencils.

Edited 1/17/20: Using Blick’s chart of 36 open stock colors, I matched as many colors as I could from my set of 24 Pericia pencils. Except for a handful that appear to be unique to Pericia, I found close matches for all the rest. Color numbers do not match.   

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